Cuando Sali de Cuba: Part 1

“Cuando salí de Cuba. Dejé mi vida dejé mi amor. Cuando salí de Cuba. Dejé enterrado mi corazón”

Luis Aguile

When I was younger I asked my mom how we came to America and the response was always  “ganamos el bombo”. I later grew up to understand exactly what that meant and the full length story told by my mom and aunt. Their story, along with the stories of many Cuabns living in the exile community of Miami, have sparked my interest to start a podcast. I’ve been throwing around this idea with a coworker and w. Who knows, maybe we will end up recording the podcast. Until then, here’s my families story about coming to America. 

My aunt (let’s call her K), studied Eenglish at The University of Havana in Cuba in hopes of using her degree to follow along in her mother’s footsteps and become a teacher. K soon realized she could better support herself financially if she went into the tourism industry. K later took a job working at hotel in Havana, Cuba. 

Back in her hometown, a neighbor had reached out to my mother (let’s call her Y), wondering when was the next time K would come for a visit. The neighbor had received a smuggled newspaper clipping from a relative in Miami and needed help translating it. Y relayed the message to her sister and they made plans to help their neighbor out. K translated the article stating that the US government was allowing the Cuban people to apply for visas and thus, allowing them the legal paperwork needed to leave the island. K explained to them the exact step- by- step instructions and left to catch the bus back home.

On the bus ride home K turned to Y and blurted out,  “!Míranos! Estamos regresando pa’ la casa como si nada. Tenemos que hacer lo mismo.” Out of fear of being overheard, Y quickly asked her to be quiet and to finish the conversation at home. You see, it’s a crime punishable by the law to speak out against the Cuban government. Many Cuban people live in fear of being thrown in jail without proper due process. 

Once home, K convinced Y to fill out an application that night for every single member of their immediate family. Their plan was for K to drop off the applications at the post office in Havana where no one knew them. In the later years, we would hear stories of post office employees throwing away applications, or reporting to the police that you were an enemy of the state. They were scared of what was to happen and they figured that dropping off the letters in a larger city where they were not recognized was safest. They feared that it would be a scam by the government to try and catch people seeking to diverge. But overall, it was a risk they were both willing to take. They told no one else (not even their husbands) about what they had done. 

Months had gone by and not much had happened. They had been hearing of people getting selected in nearby towns, but no one they knew personally. Then one day, Y is sitting on the front porch with my brother and I when the telegram delivery woman walks up to our house asking for my father (yes telegram, no this wasn’t the early 1900s, this was 1994). Y immediately started crying, much to the surprise of the telegram woman. The woman told my mother that the last house she had delivered this message to, had carried her throughout the house and cheered for her. She couldn’t understand why Y was in distress. That’s when my mother burst out, “es que mi esposo no sabe que yo hice esto.”

to be continued…

check back next month

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